‘Government. seek credit for the accountability mechanisms put in place by previous ones administration‘
48th session of the CDH:
By Shamindra Ferdinando
Lawyer Sudarshana Gunawardena has alleged that the government’s position on accountability issues at the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council is at odds with its high-profile opposition to the Geneva resolution 30/1 co-sponsored by the previous administration.
Sri Lanka co-sponsored on 1/30, October 1, 2015. The then Foreign Minister, the late Mangala Samaraweera, officially declared that the UNP-led government had the consent of President Maithripala Sirisena to move from forward with co-sponsorship.
Yesterday (17), media spokesperson for former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe Gunawardena stressed that the government, during the ongoing 48th sessions of the UNHRC, reiterated its commitment to the main accountability mechanisms put in place in accordance with the Geneva resolution.
Civil society activist Gunawardena, who also served as director general of the information department under the previous administration, said the assurance given by Foreign Minister Professor GL Peiris on Tuesday the latter (14) should be considered in the context of Sri Lanka’s withdrawal of 30/1 resolution.
Professor Peiris’ predecessor, Dinesh Gunawardena, announced Sri Lanka’s withdrawal during the February-March 2020 sessions.
Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) owed an explanation, Gunawardena said, urging the government to put the public in confidence. “Stop playing politics at the expense of our international relations,” Gunawardena said, stressing the need for what he called a national consensus on the post-war reconciliation process.
Responding to another question, Gunawardena said Prof. FM Peiris, in his address to the Geneva sessions, discussed progress in what he described as a national process regarding accountability issues. Reference was made to the Office for Missing Persons (OMP), the Reparations Office (OR) and the Office for National Unity and Reconciliation (ONUR). However, the FM conveniently failed to recognize that the OMP, OR and ONUR were established in accordance with the 2015 Geneva resolution which covered a broader understanding of transitional justice.
The SLPP, while taking credit for the ongoing transitional justice process, continued to publicly reject 1/30, the very basis of the solution, Gunawardena said. “In other words, the actions of the SLPP are very different from their commitments to the electorate in the run-up to the 2019 and 2020 presidential and parliamentary elections, respectively.
Referring to the assurance given by Prof Peiris to the UNHRC that the Human Rights Council of Sri Lanka was fulfilling its mandate, Gunawardena challenged the government to prove its sincerity by allowing an open-ended investigation into raids by SLPP lawmaker Lohan Ratwatte on Welikada and Anuradhapura prisons on September 6 and 12, respectively.
The announcement by the HRCSL regarding its decision to open its own investigation in the absence of a police investigation has received public attention and appreciation, Gunawardena said.
Commenting on the statement that Sri Lanka was engaged in an integrated process to bring the Terrorism Prevention Act (PTA) into line with international standards and best practices, lawyer Gunawardena urged the government to study the work. carried out by the previous government in this regard. Referring to statements made by then Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe in this regard, Gunawardena said the then Joint Council
The opposition maliciously rejected the movement. “They should be ashamed of their conduct”, the ministers concerned and the prosecution could not ignore the agreement on the new anti-terrorism law.
Gunawardena said the SLPP administration should not hesitate to appreciate the achievements of the previous government. “We are very pleased that the mechanisms accepted by the previous government continue to work even though progress seems slow. However, the SLPP cannot deprive the UNP-led administration of the credit it deserves, ”lawyer Gunawardena said.
Gunawardena urged the government to consider the report of the committee appointed by then-prime minister Wickremesinghe to develop what he called the political and legal framework for Sri Lanka’s counterterrorism bill. He said a politically motivated campaign derailed this effort as the opposition spread the lie that the Yahapalana government intended to deprive Sri Lanka of the anti-terrorism law.
Asked to comment on the revelation that the SLPP government met with a group of civil society activists to explore ways and means to strengthen the reconciliation process, Gunawardena said a 13-page memo from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs dated August 31, 2021 addressed to Colombo-based diplomatic missions recognized the central role played by civil society. Having always accused civil society of being part of a Western strategy, the same people denounced their duplicity when they met a group of civil society activists.
Gunawardena was referring to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and ministers, Basil Rakapaksa, Prof. Peiris, Dinesh Gunawardena, Ali Sabry, PC, and Namal Rajapaksa having separate meetings with the SLCC (Sri Lanka Collective for Consensus) ahead of the Geneva conference. SLCC has 16 people.
Gunawardena also noted that Human Rights Commissioner Michelle Bachelet, in her impactful September 13 statement on Sri Lanka, referred to President Rajapaksa’s meeting with the SLCC.
Gunawardena said that in addition to the SLCC, another group called itself the Civil Society Platform (CSP) in a statement released on September 13. The CSP is made up of 30 organizations and 36 individuals.
Responding to statements by Professor FM Peiris and Foreign Secretary Admiral Jayanath Colombage that external investigations would not be acceptable, attorney Gunawardena said that instead of dismissing the investigation, the government should provide all information in its possession or have access to the new investigation mechanism. The government could not ignore the fact that the UNHRC authorized the new investigative mechanism at the 46th session with an overwhelming majority with 22 countries voting for the resolution, 11 against and 14 missing the vote.
Gunawardena urged the government to take a realistic standpoint because Sri Lanka had neither the time nor the space to engage in stupid maneuvers. In the end, the March 2020 announcement of Sri Lanka’s 1/30 pullout was just a joke, Gunawardena said.